IRLA Mourns The Passing of Sam Ericsson

“The passing of Sam Ericsson is a profound loss to the community of religious freedom advocates,” said Dr. John Graz, Secretary-General of the International Religious Liberty Association. “He was a dear friend and will be greatly missed.”

After battling cancer for eleven years Sam Ericsson passed away yesterday. An immigrant from Sweden, Ericsson was a 1966 graduate of the University of Southern California and a 1969 graduate of Harvard Law School. In the 1970s he was a partner with a major Los Angeles law firm specializing in major complex business litigation. In the 1980s he participated in over 50 U.S. Supreme Court briefs on church-state issues while directing the 4,500-member Christian Legal Society. He was lead counsel in the landmark California Supreme Court case closing the door on so-called “clergy malpractice.” He was a key architect of the Equal Access Act that Congress passed in 1984 protecting public school campus meetings with political, philosophical and religious content. The Equal Access Act resolved the volatile, so-called, “Voluntary School Prayer” controversy.

In response to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, Ericsson founded Advocates International in 1991 as a global network of lawyers, judges, and national leaders committed to religious liberty, human rights, conflict resolution, and Judeo-Christian ethics. Advocates’ mission is to bear witness of Jesus Christ through the legal profession by encouraging and enabling advocates to meet locally, organize nationally, cooperate regionally and link globally. The network informally links 30,000 advocates in 150 nations.

He co-authored The Battle for Religious Liberty and many articles on religious freedom, legal and Christian ethics. Sam leaves his wife of 40 years, Bobby, three children and five grandchildren.

In 2010 Sam was honoured at the Religious Liberty Dinner, sponsored in part by the IRLA, NARLA, and Liberty Magazine for his life long work for religious freedom.

“I will never forget the first time I met Sam,” Barry Bussey, Associate Director of the Public Affairs Department of General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. “It was in Toronto in 2000. He spoke about “Building The Guardrails” against oppression around the world. What a privilege we had last year to honor his life work. Our prayers go out to Bobby and family at this time.”